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WIlliam Hague explains the Government's policy towards Afghanistan

WIlliam Hague in Gibraltar Foreign Secretary William Hague was interviewed on the Politics Show from Afghanistan at lunchtime today and reasserted why British troops remain there:

"We’re here to make our own nation more secure and our allies more secure. We’re here really to try to make sure that Afghans can look after their own affairs and their own security in the future without Afghanistan presenting a danger to the rest of the world.  So our objective is security. But that of course does not exclude the other things, the things that Andrew Mitchell has just been talking about because good development... making sure that people have some jobs to go to, that they can take their goods to market, that they’ve got roads they can travel on, that of course, is an important part of bringing about the security. So development and education is one of the ways in which we achieve better security for the people of Afghanistan and for the people of the United Kingdom."

He rejected suggestions that there were contradictions between the messages coming from Defence Secretary Liam Fox and International Development Secretary, both of whom have been with Mr Hague on this visit to Afghanistan:

"The three of us gave a press conference in Kabul last night. Anybody who heard that whole press conference, with Liam Fox pointing out how important the development work is to security and Andrew Mitchell, how important the work to improve security is for any hope of development, would see that these are ministers working very well together and with the same objectives. And indeed one of the – one of the important considerations on this trip is we’re meeting British officials and soldiers who work brilliantly well together whether they’re part of the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Officer of the Department for International Development, and we’re saying ministers must work brilliantly well together, which ever department they’re in and that is what the three of us in these departments are absolutely determined to do."

He also refused to enter into speculation about precisely when British troops would withdraw:

"I don’t think it’s possible and I don’t think it’s wise to set a date. I mean they should only be here for as long as we need to work towards that objective of Afghans being able to look after their own security. And one of the things we’ve been having a lot of discussions about on this visit is how we can speed up the training of the Afghan security forces and encourage, wherever possible, Afghan forces to take responsibility themselves, which they are increasingly able to do. But I don’t think setting a deadline helps anybody. I think so much of what we’re doing in Afghanistan, setting targets for people then to jump through hoops towards doesn’t help them in their work, because of course sometimes things take longer than you expected, of course sometimes things are tougher than you expected and so you’ve got to try and make sure is the strategy is right and the progress is taking place, but not make the job harder of the people doing such hard work here by setting them an artificial deadline."

Jonathan Isaby


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